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Format of Choice for a Legal, Free, Audio-eBook?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the file-type-deliberations dept.

Books 38

audioAuthor asks: "Let's say I have a recorded audio-book (no music, just speech), which I want to share with the world. What format should I use to distribute it? Main requirements would be: 'Everyone is allowed to redistribute it without any restrictions" and "Usable as widely as possible'. I have been thinking of MP3, Ogg Vorbis and Speex. MP3 would be really nice, as it's usable almost everywhere, even without a computer, but it has licensing problems which I don't quite understand. Speex is free and designed for speech, but it's not widely supported at the moment. I think that Ogg Vorbis is currently better supported than Speex, and also free, but not designed for speech and would take more space to achieve same quality. So what do you say? Which one of these should I choose, or are there other formats to consider?"

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Why not all three? (4, Insightful)

zhiwenchong (155773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059532)

It isn't that hard to release an audio book in all 3 formats.

Re:Why not all three? (3, Interesting)

narrowhouse (1949) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059902)

I agree with zhiwenchong, the people who make mp3 encoders are the ones who have to pay a license currently (how LAME gets around it is little complex, but not your problem in any case), not content creators so there is no reason not to make an mp3 version. If you have software to create ogg vorbis and speex files you might as well go ahead and do it for anyone who would prefer them. The speex file may save some bandwith and the ogg vorbis file just gives you that warm free software feeling. Hope your project goes well.

Re:LAME and MP3 (0)

jZnat (793348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059960)

LAME doesn't have to pay licensing fees to MPEG because LAME is Free software licensed under the Lesser GNU General Public License. Although some MPEG dudes from Germany own patents regarding MP3-encoding, they only charge licensing fees for commercial usage of MP3 encoding that crosses with their patents.

Re:LAME and MP3 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14060138)

Entirely misinformation.
(A) The (L)GPL patent clause doesn't make any distinction between commercial use or not.
(B) LAME is not Free Software in any country that respects MP3 patents -- it's actually illegal to distribute according to the LGPL licence in places like the US and Germany.
(C) If someone does illegally distribute LAME to you, Fraunhofer will still want their damn money.

All of them (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059553)

If bandwidth is limited, then Speex gives you the best size:quality ratio for voice. Otherwise, offer MP3, Vorbis, Speex, and whatever else you feel like. If you don't have to choose, why limit yourself?

If bandwidth is limited (2, Insightful)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059738)

...offer bit-torrents.

Bandwidth limitation really isn't an excuse, nowadays.

Re:If bandwidth is limited (1)

Chasuk (62477) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060671)

I adore bittorrent. Hi, Julian.

Hi Chas [OT] (0, Offtopic)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060763)

Fancy meeting you here :-)

And yes you should write the "Why Star Wars Sucks" essay. I'd be curious to read ;-)

[karma bonus switched off due to utter off-topicness]

Is too (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060716)

Bandwidth limitation really isn't an excuse, nowadays.
Not for streaming over the Internet, maybe. But if you're storing files on a limited medium, it's still an issue. Well, not a big issue....

I own an MP3 player with 256MB that I mostly use to listen to spoken word stuff. At 16 kbps, which seems to be the minimum rate for that kind of content, I can store at most 25 hours. Yeah, that's a lot, but suppose I feel a sudden urge to drive accross country? I'd basically have to get another player with more storage or removable media. If I could use a speech-optimized format, instead of music-optimized MP3, I could use my flash more effectively.

None of which is an argument for using any format except MP3. Like VHS and QWERTY, it's not the best, but it is a de-facto standard. And that's enough.

Re:Is too (2, Funny)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14061968)

Yeah, that's a lot, but suppose I feel a sudden urge to drive accross country?

Do you get these urges often?

Re:Is too (1)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14062791)

Driving across the country is a 2,500 mile trek, more or less. In a car that gets 40 MPG, that's 625 gallons of gas, or something like $1500.

A better MP3 player than yours is, what, $50? If you get the urge to drive across the country, just stop at Best Buy first.

Re:Is too (1)

thechuckbenz (526254) | more than 8 years ago | (#14063219)

Uh, check your math... 625 gallons will take you 25,000 miles at 40 MPG.

Re:Is too (1)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14064507)

Whoa, how did I screw that up? Thanks.

It did seem like a lot...

I would have given away my car by now ;) (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14067217)

I've driven across the country several times, so I just did a few double takes at your original comment, started counting on my fingers etc, before seeing this part of the conversation ;)

My Ford Escort wagon sometimes topped 40mpg; that, plus the fixed costs (for a current car owner at least) like insurance, licensure, etc, and the flexibility of setting one's own pace and stopping points, are why I liked to travel ludicrous distances by car. However, the Escort wasn't so hot at topping things like, say, mountains.

Glad I'm now somewhat city-bound for a while, what with the price of gas ...


Re:Is too (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14065189)

OK, suppose I get an urge to walk across country. My point was that audio players have a finite amount of memory, and I could get more out of that memory if I could use a speech-specific format.

Re:All of them (2, Insightful)

munpfazy (694689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060020)

Yup. "All of them" is the way to go.

MP3 is ubiquitous and great for almost any portable player. The only reason not to use it is because you like some other format and want to forcibly promote it. (Which assumes that your audience knows your work well enough to consider installing new software in order to hear you... which may or may not be true.) At least when using LAME, you can fine tune the compressing for the speaker to reduce file size pretty considerably.

Ogg vorbis is great for both philosophical and practical reasons, but you'll limit your audience since only a few portable player companies include support for it. If your background is quiet, you can really crank up the compression on a speach-only vorbis file before noticeably impacting quality.

Never used the speex, but there's no harm in offering it. Chances are few will use it.

What is your *real* goal? (4, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059579)

If you want to make a political/philosophical statement use Ogg Vorbis.
If you want no-one to ever bother listening to it use Speex.
If you want many people to listen to it use MP3.

flac (1, Insightful)

dns_server (696283) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059588)

Have you thaught about flac? http://flac.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]. it is another open source royalty free codec that supports lossless comporession which might be a good opion if you want high quality and no data loss because of compression.

Licensing? (4, Informative)

general_re (8883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059601)

As a noncommercial end-user, MP3 licensing is not a problem for you. If you were developing software to implement MP3, either encoding or decoding, or your MP3-encoded content were part of a commercial (i.e., revenue generating) enterprise, then you would need a license. Since neither of those apply, MP3 is free for you to use.

I'm not too sure, but... (1)

fbnas (889059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14059668)

I'm pretty sure LAME would work as an mp3 encoder for your case. Check the website at lame.sourceforge.net [slashdot.org] to read up on it, but I'm pretty sure it's what you're looking for, considering there are no legal issues behind it (It's LGPL'd).

And I agree that Speex is useless (who's gonna listen to it? I'd never heard of it before now), and Ogg isn't very common outside of Linux from my experience...

Re:I'm not too sure, but... (1)

n0d3 (708403) | more than 8 years ago | (#14061237)

Ya know, TeamSpeak et al uses speex. It's not that unheard of.

However does your support it? Probably not.

So to get back to the original poster, speex would be great, but not a lot of people would be able to use it.

MP3 would be best for everybody to listen too, but ogg would still be best bw/quality wise.

You could as mentioned before offer 2/3 (speex and mp3) and also put a download of the speex codec for .

Re:I'm not too sure, but... (1)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14062059)

I'm pretty sure LAME would work as an mp3 encoder for your case

Yes, LAME does a surprisingly good job on speech at low bit-rates, provided you use one of the --preset xxxxx options. In my own tests, I found it was only a little worse than speech-optimised codecs like those from Microsoft and Real.

Don't use LAME just with a low bit-rate though - it will sound dreadful. Use --preset whatever.

Re:I'm not too sure, but... (2, Informative)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14062090)

Incidently, if you are a pure pragmatist and don't mind using a closed proprietory codec, Microsoft's Voice 9 codec (IIRC) gives very good quality at a low bit-rate, and probably over 98% of users will be able to play it back without installing any new software. (The encoder is a free download from Microsoft.)

use an advanced compression format (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14059949)

otherwise known as ASCII text .. seriously, how about just distributing the text of the book and let people read it to themselves?

AMR? (1)

davegaramond (632107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060623)

What about AMR? It seems to be designed for speech and widely supported by mobile devices. Though I'm not sure about the licensing issues.

On a side note, does anyone know of an easy way to convert AMR to MP3/OGG/WAV, preferable on Linux? Yes, I've tried Google results like this [aquarionics.com], but couldn't make it to work.

Re:AMR? (1)

croddy (659025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060647)

yes. ffmpeg is the tool of choice for enc/dec amr on linux. the debian-marillat packages have amr support built in; else you will need to patch it yourself. it's as simple as:
ffmpeg -i infile.amr outfile.wav

or, if you want to get a video from your phone:
ffmpeg -i infile.3gp -ar 16000 video.avi

ffmpeg is quite flexible, and does a damn good job of "what you want it to do" when you run the minimal options.

FLAC (2, Informative)

Jebediah21 (145272) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060698)

FLAC can be converted into whatever format the user wants. Considering it's speech you should get around 50% compression from the wavs. Of course not everybody will want to download that so put it in mp3 too. I can't think of anything that plays Ogg and not mp3. Speex is not that widespread at this point, so if anybody really wants it they can convert from FLAC. And that's the beauty of FLAC too. Some new format gets popular you can convert it into that too.

Re:FLAC (1)

Jonnty (910561) | more than 8 years ago | (#14064883)

>I can't think of anything that plays Ogg and not mp3. Any piece of software that wants to be 100% open source?

Multiple formats (1)

Per Wigren (5315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14060715)

For iPod-users, create a mono ~50kbps VBR AAC file using faac --tns -q90 -i mybook_mono.wav -o mybook_ipod.m4b . Using the extension .m4b will make the iPod treat it as a "real" audiobook and it will be bookmarkable.

For pure speech, -q0 Vorbis is more than good enough and it will also be around 50 kbps.

For those who can't use AAC or Vorbis, create a low quality MP3.

Re:Multiple formats (1)

jgrahn (181062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14066438)

For pure speech, -q0 Vorbis is more than good enough [...]

Also note that there is a -q-1 Vorbis (i.e. you can say oggenc -q-1 .... That's smaller still, and IMHO good enough even for music.

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